Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra (large orchestra version)


turntables and large orchestra
Electronics with Live Performers, Solo Instrument(s) with Orchestra
2(I=picc) - 4.3.2.btrbn.1 - timp - perc(4): cyms/small & medium gongs (Peking style)/BD/drum set/struck reeds (or shaker)/low roto-toms/ride cym/bongos/tom-toms/piccolo & large SD/tamb/small or medium chinese cyms/splash cyms/sleigh bells/hi-hat/slapstick/wood chimes/vib/shaker(eggs)/samba BD/tgl/glass milk bottle - harp - strings

Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra was initiated and commissioned by Will Dutta (Chimera Productions) 2006-7. The version for expanded orchestra was commissioned by the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.

First Performance
3.8.2011, Symphony Hall, Birmingham, UK: DJ Switch/National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain/Vladimir Jurowski

Score and parts for hire


Programme Notes

When Will Dutta first approached me with the idea of composing a ‘concerto’ for DJ, my immediate reaction was negative. Though I had composed a classical piece which incorporated a DJ for the Bath festival one year earlier (‘3 Dances’ for Bass Clarinet, String Trio & DJ, 2004), the idea of an actual DJ concerto sounded too grandiose and gimmicky to me: I was concerned it would seem like another PR exercise in trying to make modern classical music ‘cool’ and ‘trendy’, but Mr Dutta insisted that there was serious artistic potential to the project and as it was inevitable that a concerto for turntable would emerge sooner or a later; why not let us be the team to do it right. Will explained that we would have the highly skilled Turntablist, DJ Yoda as the soloist, and once I properly considered the musical possibilities of such a project, I soon found myself sketching out different concepts for each of the movements, and was keen to get started. What makes the turntable different to any other instrument is that it uses pre-recorded sounds, but that is actually nothing new to classical music. From the Musique Concrete of Pierre Schaeffer’s studios and the Poeme electronique of Varese in the 1950s, which used reel to reel tape, through to the current digital world of electroacoustic music; classical composers were manipulating recorded sounds long before Grandmaster Flash made his first scratch using a record. However, once hip-hop culture discovered that a DJ can do so much more than just ‘play records’ with a turntable, their DIY approach led to the evolution of a very exciting new instrument. That instrument has somehow stayed within the world of hip-hop and dance, never venturing into the classical world, despite the incredible expressive potential it has. Having previously composed and studied electroacoustic music, I am aware of the search for more expressive ways of performing electronic music, as unfortunately many concerts just consist of the playback of DAT tape or CD. So could it be possible that this instrument, that first came to life at Block Parties in the Bronx, bring that expressivity? But, seeing as it was developed for hip-hop music, would it work in the context of a classical form such as a concerto? Well, hip-hop music has frequently sampled orchestral sounds and textures with great success, so why not the other way round? Plus, an experienced DJ can produce such a wide range of sounds that it must be possible for them to sit within the orchestra in some way. Furthermore, as a composer I have a genuine interest in contemporary urban music styles such as hip-hop, so I knew that I can incorporate certain rhythms and musical ideas into the work that can bring the world of the DJ and the world of the orchestra closer together. (In this concerto you can hear traces of hip-hop drum patterns, a Reggaeton beat, Grime, and even disco-house.) The central inspiration guiding the composition of this work was of course the instrument itself, the Turntable. After a meeting with DJ Yoda, where he demonstrated the range of techniques on offer, I decided that the concerto would aim to explore all the main DJing techniques, with each movement focusing on a certain technique. The concerto would explore 1. The most basic DJ technique of all: just playing back a bit of music, and the progressions from that; stopping the record, interrupting it, reversing it, slowing it down, and cutting it up. 2. The earliest DJ technique; ‘mixing’. One of the most interesting mixing techniques is Beat juggling. It is when a DJ ‘juggles’ with two identical records, placing them slightly out of time with each other, to create interesting new rhythms. This is usually done with two records, but in this case we have one record and an orchestra. 3. Scratching is the most famous DJ technique and in the right hands can be extremely expressive and musical. DJ Yoda showed me a wide range of scratch techniques that include Scribbling,

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